Practice Presence and Mindfulness by Eating More Mindfully

brain health healthy eating healthy living real food resilience stress-free Feb 13, 2022

We’re often told WHAT to eat...what types of foods, how much of them, what combinations, and what time to eat them - all with the intention of creating more healthful habits. 

But, rarely are we guided in HOW to eat food...with mindfulness! 

This can be just as important in the creation of healthy eating habits.

However, eating as mindfully as we might on vacation, for example, is not realistic for many of us, especially with all the other daily distractions in our busy lives. 

So, here are TEN SIMPLE IDEAS to help you establish healthful eating habits, that are also mindful - and perhaps allows us a point of reconnection with the body and the mind.

Remember:  Healthy Eating is not just about the food – Practice eating mindfully and with compassion for yourself!

1. Prepare your own meals 

Planning and preparing for yourself and your family as much as possible, choosing high quality real food, preparing the food with love, can be one of the most life-affirming practices you can develop!

2. Tune in to your body’s signals

Rather than just eating on emotional cues (different for each of us, like sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, stress or even just boredom) we can learn to tune into and be better listeners of our body’s actual hunger signals. 

For example, is your stomach growling, is your energy low, are you feeling a little lightheaded, or even ‘hangry’?

Notice any cravings you may have, and see if you can determine if they indicate real hunger or if it’s something else. Maybe thirst, maybe a need to distract yourself from something unpleasant.

3. Set the stage ....at a table

Or at least set a place for yourself - at the table, breakfast bar, outside patio.  But not at your work desk or while driving your car! 

Get out the nice napkins and placements, fresh flowers or a centerpiece.  

This helps to pull your attention back to your food and to your eating habits. It has also been shown to dramatically reduce overeating - especially for those who tend to eat in front of the TV.

And it’s OK to use the fine china!  After all, when else are you going to use it?

4. Put food on a...plate

Speaking of the fine china …  

Think about this: eating out of a bag is not a very mindful practice! So, get in the habit of placing even snacks on a plate before eating them. This helps you to take notice of exactly what and how much you’re actually eating.

5. Be mindful, and in the present moment

Take a moment before eating to breathe, take in your meal with all your senses, appreciate what’s before you, acknowledge the time, effort and passion you put into creating your meal - consider all the ingredients, and the preparation and intention involved.

Offer gratitude to all those who make your meal possible–from farm to plate!

6. Enjoy pleasant conversation with others or background music

This will help relax you and aid with digestion, which cannot be said for reading or listening to disturbing content or multi-tasking with work tasks.

7. Absolutely, positively NO DEVICES at the table

Now that you’re sitting at a proper table, designating the first few minutes of a meal for quiet, mindful practice can be beneficial - for everyone at the table. This includes putting away the devices and turning off the TV.

8. Slo-o-o-o-w down …

Slowing down is one of the easiest, and most effective ways we can get our body+mind to coordinate in their signals of what we really need for nutritional purposes.  Take at least 20 minutes for each meal, which will allow you to chew properly and allow your body’s satiety hormones to kick in.

The body actually sends its “I’m full!” signal about 20 minutes after the brain - a little glitch in human physiology and also why it can be easy to overeat. But, if we slow down, we can give our body a chance to catch up to our brain, hear the signals properly, and eat the right amount. 

9. … and Chew thoroughly!

Chewing more, and more slowly, is probably THE simplest and most effective way to begin developing the habit of eating mindfully.  This allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food, helps you maintain a healthy weight, allows for easier digestion, and leads to fewer digestive issues like gas and bloating.  How long should you chew?  Until your mouthful of food is liquefied and loses all of its texture!

10. Put down that fork!

Putting your fork down between bites of food reinforces your enhanced chewing habit, rather than mindlessly picking at your plate or preparing to shovel in your next bite. Yet another opportunity to really taste your food!

And when you eat slowly, taking at least 20 minutes, you can once again tune in to your body’s signals, and once you reach a level of satiation (about 80% full) then put down that fork for good, and end the meal.  This might also help you reduce those cravings for dessert that are often occurring because you haven’t given yourself enough time to feel complete!

Need a challenge?  Make it more difficult to feed yourself

Making things more difficult is a great way to force yourself to pay attention to a more intentional act of eating - you can apply this to many areas of your life! 

One way to up the challenge is to eat with your non-dominant hand. For 90% of us, that’s our left hand. While this may seem tedious to do at every meal, try it for breakfast or maybe just at snack time - or maybe at a dinner with friends for some entertainment value!

So, there you have it - 

Ten super easy, but actionable ways you can start practicing mindfulness, especially when you’re eating. Your whole body will benefit from simply slowing down, and being more intentional and present while eating.

And if you deviate from your plan, understand that it doesn’t make you weak or lacking in willpower, it simply means you are human!

And now for a test!

Tapping into ALL of your senses is a great way to be fully present while eating - because it isn’t just about taste. There are so many things to experience when we eat food — colours, textures, smells and even sounds. Let’s put this concept to the test!

The Mindful Raisin Challenge

Ingredients:

  • 3 plump, juicy raisins 

How to eat raisins...mindfully:

  1. With raisins in hand, begin to explore them with all of your senses. Imagine that you’ve never seen a raisin before. Discover everything you can about them! 
  2. Turn them around with your fingers and take note of the colours.
  3. Observe the texture - any softness, hardness, coarseness, or smoothness.
  4. Put the raisins up to your nose and take note of any aroma.
  5. Place your raisins close to one ear, squeeze them or roll them around, listening to any sounds.
  6. Now...the really fun part! Slowly put the 3 raisins in your mouth, noticing the sensation of your mouth beginning to water as you start to chew them.
  7. Chew the raisins slowly and with intention until they are virtually disintegrated.
  8. When you feel ready to swallow, note the sensations of swallowing the raisin - for example, sensing it moving down your throat and into your esophagus on its way to your stomach. 
  9. Visualize this happening, and the energy and nourishment that this intentional eating is going to provide your body.
  10. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking this time to experience truly mindful eating!

Note - this can also be done with small squares of dark chocolate too!  Notice the texture and flavour on your tongue as it begins to melt.  And notice the temptation to swallow before it has thoroughly melted!

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

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